Atlético pummelled a feeble Granada side at the Vicente Calderón on Sunday in a clash that served as a fun lesson in counting for the roughly 10,000 children in attendance at the Rojiblanco stronghold.
It was one for each finger at Cholo Castle, with Atleti hitting their relegation-threatened opponents for five goals.
The emphatic victory, largely attributable to a sublime Koke, was everything a Colchonero mom or dad trying to instill the wonder of the red and white stripes into their child could ever ask for.
From start to finish, Diego Simeone’s Indios displayed fighting spirit, lightning-quick counters, stingy defending and goals–lots of ’em–en route to their 20th win of the current La Liga campaign.
Hopefully our boys will be buoyed by the resounding nature of this triumph as they face a very difficult pair of encounters in the coming weeks: away to Sevilla next weekend and a mouthwatering bout versus Real Madrid at home in a fortnight.
The top four teams in Spain all came out winners over the match day, but the closest team that can knock us out of the Champions League zone, Valencia, dropped two points in Barcelona with a thrilling 3-3 draw against Espanyol on Saturday.
Los Che trail us by 15 points with seven games to go in the domestic competition.
“The Calderón was so beautiful today filled up with kids; and also, what great supporters we have!” – Thibaut Courtois
Post-game notes and quotes:
‘El Cholo’: 2nd* fastest Atleti coach to 50 wins in club history
(*Revised: This report originally cited Pedro Martin of COPE‘s claim that Simeone was the fastest coach ever to 50 wins, but according to MARCA, former Atlético manager Marcel Domingo accumulated 50 wins after 66 games, 13 less than Cholo)
Rojiblanco boss Diego Simeone became the second fastest Atlético coach ever to 50 wins†, achieving the feat in only 79 matches at the helm of the soon to be 110-year-old club.
“We were able to capitalise on the chances we had,” the Colchonero legend told reporters after the game.
“That helped the team play out a game we were well-prepared for from the standpoint of our intensity, and our understanding of how we had to play it. I’m satisfied. In the last 10 games, we’ve lost once, tied four times and won five, so we’re happy.”
The Argentine continued: “It was very hot and we put in a great effort. We leave happy with our tremendous work, of having reached 65 points.”
Perhaps in a bid to keep the fire burning going forward, Simeone said: “We have to look to finish in second place, which would be a big step forward for the club.”
“5-0. Very good result. Almost, almost in the Champions League! Atleti Atleti! Now, hopefully Real Madrid lose and we focus on Sevilla!” Gianluca Simeone, Cholo’s second son (via Twitter)
Costa gets the party started quickly
The Beast of the Manzanares had been somewhat subdued in the previous two matches, but he put thousands of loose-toothed smiles on the painted faces of the Atleti youth after just three minutes.
Diego Costa’s opening strike was his 16th goal of his spectacular 2012/13 season and seventh in La Liga, and came off of a pinpoint cross by star of the night Koke.
No other partnership in Spain has been more fruitful than this year’s breakout performers Costa and Koke who, together, have connected for nine goals.
The Brazil international also tallied his seventh assist this term when he found Falcao in the play that resulted in our second goal.
Bonus stat for the haters: The Beast did not commit a single foul on Sunday.
“I believe the [Kokes] are our future“
“I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty the [Rojiblancos] possess inside [Cholo Castle], give them a sense of pride to make it easier, let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be; everybody’s searching for a hero…” (excerpted from Whitney Houston’s pre-game speech to Atleti).
It’s safe to say this victory was borne from the feet of ‘I can be your hero’ Koke, one more child present at the Calderón.
While most of the buzz in Rojiblanco land is fixed on talented young playmaker Óliver Torres these days, Koke is the here and now. Not only did the Atleti phenom bag three assists on the evening, but he also had the most touches in the match by far with 93 (Gabi, with the second-most-touches, had 76).
The 21-year-old’s success rate with those close to 100 passes was a very sharp 90 per cent, according to WhoScored.
‘Georgie Resurrection’, with 10, now ranks up there in La Liga in assists with such household names as: Iniesta (11), Messi (11), Özil (11) and Fàbregas (10).
His assist total in Primera is the most for an Atlético player since the 2003/04 season, when Ibagaza finished with 10, Pedro Martin of COPE reports.
Koke now has 11 assists overall in the present campaign.
On whether the Madrid-born midfielder could continue to feature alongside Gabi in upcoming matches to the detriment of Mario Suárez, who was suspended for this game, Cholo said: “It’s a possibility. That’s his natural position. His work today was very good.”
‘El Tigre’ comes roaring back
Amid rumours of a possible deal that would send him to Manchester United in the summer and harsh criticism regarding his form, striker Radamel Falcao showed some very positive signs that he could be coming out of his recent slump, netting a brace that put his goal total at 30 this season, six shy of his output from 2011/12.
Our ferocious feline now has 24 goals in this edition of La Liga, equalling his league production from his inaugural year at Atleti with seven fixtures left on the calendar.
The Colombian hitman for Jesus has a remarkable 33 goals in 33 league games at the Calderón in his first two seasons at the club, and his first goal Sunday came about from an absolutely mesmerising counter led by Cristian ‘Cebolla’ Rodríguez.
“It also makes us very happy that Falcao found the back of the net again and was able to repeat his goal total from last year,” Simeone said of his squad’s goalscoring leader.
“Every time [Falcao] goes out onto the pitch, he gives his all for the team and we are delighted with him.” -Gabi
- “Raúl plays out of his [natural] position, but he adapts,” Cholo said of midfielder Raúl García, who was back in the starting XI for a second weekend in a row–this time deployed on the right wing. “He’s a competitive player and every time he plays he satisfies the team beyond having scored a goal today.” That well-deserved goal was Raúl’s ninth of the season. The former Osasuna man didn’t offer us balance on the flanks the way Adrián did against Getafe, as our attack was once again primarily left-sided. Despite his ever-present threat inside the box, his pass success rate was a lowly 50 per cent.
- Filipe Luís recorded his third goal (first in La Liga) in the present term to complete the manita (a Spanish colloquialism indicating a sort of fully-open-hand-bitch-slap–okay, not really but it has that same kind of feel to it).
- Shotstopper extraordinaire Thibaut Courtois brought his incredible clean sheet total in league action to 17 and now has 21 total in the current campaign. The Belgian is the clear favourite to win MARCA‘s Zamora Trophy for the goalkeeper with the best goals conceded per matches played ratio (0.77). In fact, if Courtois were to ride the bench for the remainder of the season, he would clinch the honour.
- Adrián found himself on the bench again after having started in place of Arda last week. The Asturian striker entered the game with a little over 20 minutes left on the clock though, and was credited with an assist, his fifth on the season and first in league play, on Filipe’s goal.
- IN-súa. Left-back Emiliano Insúa was the last signing of La Liga’s past winter transfer window to debut with his new club when he replaced Filipe in the 73rd minute. This is what the Argentine-born footballer looks like in the red and white stripes, for those (all) of us wondering.
- Atleti’s most beloved canterano, Óliver Torres, made his debut at the Vicente Calderón in Primera División play when he substituted Raúl in the 71st minute, receiving the thunderous applause of the home crowd as he made his way onto the pitch. “My league debut at the Calderón, a victory and just one word: THANKS,” the 18-year-old idol wrote on Twitter. “Every day he gets better,” Simeone said of the youngster. “He continues to grow as we expect and want. He participated today and always shows that he’s an excellent player.”
- On Sunday, team captain Gabi made his 250th appearance in the Spanish top flight. “I hope I can continue playing for many more years on the team of my life,” the Atleti academy product said.
- Cristian ‘Cebolla’ Rodríguez, notorious for his general ineffectiveness when appearing in the fold, was heavily-involved against el Graná from the start and delivered several key passes, none more exquisite than the one he made to Costa in our spellbinding second goal. “I’m very grateful to the fans,” he said afterwards. “Hopefully they will continue to chant ‘Uruguayo’ for me and Godín.“
- Koke’s yellow card total remains at four, while Diego Costa avoided his 10th booking and still has nine. Both players are one yellow away from an automatic one-match ban.
- †Quickest Atleti coaches to 50 wins: 1. Marcel Domingo (66 games); 2. Simeone (79 games); 2. Villalonga (81 games); Antić (84 games); and Zamora (85 games). (MARCA and COPE)
- Another new record: Sunday’s shutout was Atleti’s 26th clean sheet of the season, the most in a single campaign in club history. (COPE)